Ding ding. Round three for Hatters' scrap
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City have no excuses this time around for Daniel Farke against a dogged Luton Town.
The Hatters arrive at Carrow Road on Saturday with the rare distinction of being the only club to beat the runaway Championship leaders twice this season.
Norwich had 16 players unavailable for an opening weekend League Cup exit, and fared no better with an injury-hit roster in December’s Kenilworth Road league meeting.
“To beat us twice is a proof of their quality,” said Farke. “There is no pressure for them. They are many points clear of the relegation battle and they have had a day extra to prepare. They will give it a real go.
"I look at their bench and they have many experienced players who know what to do at this level to win points. It is not just the tactical flexibility but they have plenty of options. They are very compact and well structured and make it hard for the opponent to create chances.
"But that first game was more or less our last pre-season game. We played with 16 players unavailable. We had four or five first team players on the training pitch that week during a crazy international break.
"Then for the league meeting I think we played (Przemyslaw) Placheta down the middle. We were struggling with the keeper and left back situation.
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"But they showed spirit and how competitive they are, and they are coming off the back of an important win (at Nottingham Forest) so I think it will be a complicated task.”
City’s assured 1-0 midweek victory over promotion rivals Brentford chalked up a 14th league clean sheet, and was another subtle nod to a change of tack following relegation.
“In the mid to longer term I have said in the past a side promoted with offensive strength finds it harder than a team set up in a more defensive way,” said Farke. “Look at the history and teams who have been promoted to the Premier League. Sheffield United found it easier to survive than us in the first season because they had a defensive base.
"If you can have that and add some attacking quality then you can not only survive but maybe push on. We want to return to the Premier League but make sure we give ourselves a real chance to stay there. To do that makes us more competitive.
“We knew teams would sit deeper and make it more difficult to score goals this season, compared to two years ago. We are still one of the best sides for creating chances but it is important to be solid in terms of defending.
"This was a major topic. We knew we needed to be solid at the back and return to the dressing room with a clean sheet or maybe a one goal win.”
Todd Cantwell’s return from a calf injury is another boost for the run in, while Orjan Nyland and Marco Stiepermann both featured on Friday in a 3-1 development win at Reading’s Under-23s.
Nyland made his first appearance since a January move with Stiepermann notching a brace in his third outing at that level since recovering from Epstein-Barr virus.
“Important and valuable minutes for both,” said Farke. “Orjan was out a long time. You can try to prepare for a game on the training pitch but for the positioning and the feeling and the space, especially for a keeper, to have those 90 minutes is important for his rhythm.
“Marco was with us all week at team training but we got the feeling there is not much need to change the squad for Luton so another 90 minutes would be beneficial for him.
"He looked sharp and with next week being a normal week he could be strongly in my thoughts for the following weekend.”